Down East 2013 ©
Went down to the Wally Mart with my friend Celina the other evening. Since her husband Henry died, we try to get together once a month or so and do something. Celina was looking for a new lipstick, and I was acting as her beauty consultant, you know, providing moral support. Plus, I’m always up for a little browsing.
Charlie and me had kind of a special bond with Celina and Henry, because like us, they never had children. We did a lot of things together, the two couples, especially in our twenties and thirties, when most folks our age were busy with their kids.
But they were a little older than us, and when Henry took early retirement from Central Maine Power, they became snowbirds, spending half their time in Florida.
It broke my heart when Henry got sick. I can’t stand to see people suffer! He was a fighter, though. When he became house-bound, I’d go visit once a week, bring a little treat for him to eat, free Celina up to go run an errand or two. I never heard Henry complain all the times I visited. Even that last time, when I brought him some of my special vanilla pudding (though he did take his oxygen mask off and try to sweet talk me into getting him a cigarette!)
Forty-five years, that’s how long they were married. And they still acted like newlyweds. Henry called her his “bride,” and Celina referred him as “my Henry” — “my Henry” did this, “my Henry” said that. It would have been obnoxious, if they weren’t so cute!
At the wake, Celina says to me, “Ida, I still have the dress I wore to our thirtieth anniversary party. My Henry loved me in that dress. That’s what I want to be buried in, so I look pretty for my Henry when he sees me in heaven. You have to promise me, Ida, that you’ll make sure they bury me in that dress. I’ve gained a little weight since then, so just slice it up the back.”
Spending time with Celina, seeing her without her Henry, always makes me hug Charlie a little tighter when I get home. He may get on my nerves from time to time, but truth is, I just can’t picture my life without him.
Four years on, Celina’s bounced back better than I’d of thought. We grow ‘em tough up here in the north country! She still has a tinge of sadness around her eyes, but she’s joined the Senior Center, and attends their monthly meetings. Celina has even gone on a few day trips with them, down to the flower show in Portland, and this summer to Maine State Music Theater, to see “My Fair Lady.”
So, after our successful outing at the Wally Mart (I found a nice pink nail polish, and Celina got a lipstick in the prettiest shade of coral. Oh, it looks adorable on her!), we went down to the DQ to celebrate. Over Peanut Buster Parfaits, Celina confided in me.
“Ida,” she says, “last night, I had a revelation. Made me feel a little guilty.”
“Really, Celina? Do tell!”
“Well, you know how much I miss my Henry, right?”
“Goes without saying.”
“OK. So last night I’m standing in the bathroom, checking my eye brows for stray hairs, putting on my night cream, flossing my teeth, when I hear a strange noise. Turns out, it’s me, humming. I look at myself in the mirror, and I’m smiling. And at that moment, I realize: I miss my Henry in every room of this house, except here.”
“In the bathroom?”
“Yup! Ida, I confess. I just love having a sink to myself.”
“The stuff of dreams, Celina. It’s the stuff of dreams!”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here .)